Someday, someone should hook up some volunteers to an EEG machine and monitor their brain waves as they surf their way through Second Life. I’m pretty sure they’ll find that the waves change as the subjects slide deeper into the virtual world and the pixelated walls slowly close in. Reality fades to a distant murmur and the ties that tether us to our everyday lives weaken and snap like cotton thread till there we are: floating off into the SL-zone.
I don’t know if everyone hits the SL-zone or whether it takes a special sensitivity, but I think we’ve all probably experienced some of the effects, especially when we’ve been immersed in Second Life for some hours with no distractions. We begin to focus on this imaginary world with its heavy visual content and its pretty sights; we get involved in our avatars and absorbed in their lives. And we gradually adapt to this magical world. Our personalities seem to change. We find ourselves doing and saying things we normally wouldn’t do or say. We’re still ourselves, but we’re different.
When we finally pull ourselves away from the screen we’re like divers emerging from the sea, all clumsy and waterlogged. We stretch and rub our eyes and wonder where the time went.
And meanwhile, the things we just did in-world come back to haunt us like snatches of someone else’s dream. Did I really just spend ten US dollars on a pair of virtual shoes to impress my virtual friends? Did I really just tell an absolute stranger all this embarrassing information about my personal life? Should I really be so upset that some cartoon figure didn’t respond to my cartoon figure when I said hello? Did I really just have sex with an avatar who might very well be a retired truck driver from Muncie, Indiana?
What was I thinking?
I don’t think there’s any doubt that SL alters your consciousness. We already know that video games can cause changes in brain waves, but video games mainly affect the areas that process visual information and alertness. But Second Life engages a lot more than our ability to just spot things and shoot. Our whole social psyche and emotions are involved. We’re acting and interacting with people in an environment that shares a lot of similarities with a sensory-deprivation tank. Focused on our screens and headphones and isolated from the real world and its distractions, we start to float.
Wait— Focus, isolation, sensory-deprivation, floating… That’s starting to sound like the techniques of Hypnosis.
Is that what we’re talking about here? Is SL hypnotic? Does it put us in a kind of trance where we’re open to suggestion and our guards are down? Is that why the things we feel here seem so unusually vivid and intense?
Is that why we can fall in love with a cartoon stranger we know next to nothing about? Is our sensitivity to hypnosis the reason that some of us can have intensely orgasmic sex with an animated puppet while others are left totally cold by the whole idea? Is that why we get so emotionally involved and even addicted to this virtual world?
Is that how SL works?
Let’s talk about hypnosis here for a bit. More specifically, let’s talk about VEH— Virtual Erotic Hypnosis, the practice of inducing a hypnotic trance through computers for sexual purposes.
Hypnosis has been used for years now in treating various sexual dysfunctions and conditions, and with some considerable success. It’s been used for treating male problems like ED or premature ejaculation, and in women for anorgasmia (inability to reach climax) or lack of desire. It’s been used to cure sexual fears and phobias, unwanted fetishes and compulsions, and to reduce anxiety and self-consciousness.
People being people, it didn’t take long for these techniques of medical hypnosis to filter down to the sexual underground, where they were adapted for more recreational uses: overcoming inhibitions, enhancing arousal, increasing pleasure, and in dominance/submission play.
And then someone found that erotic hypnosis also worked remotely, through computers. Voice or even text could be just as effective in inducing a mild hypnotic state in willing subjects as the classical face-to-face technique. In fact, the internet was a very good medium for hypnosis. The hypnotist didn’t have to be in the room at all. And once the subject was in a hypnotic state, standard suggestion techniques could be used to achieve the desired results.
Virtual Erotic Hypnosis.
The subject has to be willing. You can’t hypnotize someone who resists it. The way it’s done is through relaxation, isolation, and concentration. The subject is put at physical ease and all distractions are dialed down or eliminated. S/he is then guided into concentrating on a single focus, often a specific part of the body. A hynotic state is induced and the subject is then open to suggestion.
The technique seems to work. Subjects of VEH have reported more intense sensation, increased responsiveness, less inhibition and anxiety, more confidence and acceptance of their desires. People vary considerably in their sensitivity to VEH, and you’re not going to make someone your sex slave by using it, but the effect seems to be real. Or as real as regular hypnosis.
VEH seems to be mostly employed by men (what a surprise!) who use it to increase sexual arousal in their subjects, or make the sexual experience more intense. It’s popular with sexual dominants who use it to achieve more control over their submissives or make the submissive experience more real and immediate. It’s not known if submissives tend to be more sensitive to suggestion or whether they’re just more willing to submit to the hypnotic process.
Now think of what happens when we use Second Life. Ideally our bodies are relaxed, there are no distractions, and we’re focused on that little screen. We’re perfectly set up to be extremely receptive to suggestion. Critical faculties are dulled. Things people say to us will resonate and engage us on a deeper level. We’re in the SL-zone.
This isn’t to say that we’re all zombified when we’re in SL or stupefied automatons. The hypnogogic state will most likely not be very deep and so easier to shake off.
But take something like SL sex: you’re concentrating on your partner’s emotes and the avatars on the screen. You’re imagination is engaged in feeling what they’re doing to your body and how they feel to you (drawing attention to the body is a standard hypnotic technique. It’s used in meditation too.) You’re critical faculties aren’t operating that well. You’re in the zone, in the moment. The experience is more fulfilling and more intense than it has any right to be from two people texting on a screen. Does it involve a kind of hypnosis?
One more digression, to the topic of subspace in BDSM. Many sexual submissives subjected to protracted and intense foreplay report entering a special mental state known as subspace. It’s a delicious, quietly euphoric place, extremely pleasurable and peaceful, described by many as even better than orgasm, and longer lasting.
Subspace is often induced by intense physical punishment—whipping, flogging, strict bondage—and so is thought to involve the release of endorphins due to the pain and discomfort. But some subs are more sensitive and can apparently enter subspace via purely mental means, without recourse to pain and torture. The right mental and emotional state will do it, such as the feeling of total submission and loss of autonomy.
For those who can achieve it, subspace is described as a kind of earthly nirvana. The return to reality reluctantly, and with a feeling of sadness and regret known as subdrop.
I’m not suggesting that subspace is caused by hypnosis. Too many subs have said the two are entirely different. But it would be surprising if some hypnotic processes weren’t at work. All the elements are there: sensory deprivation (blindfolds and gags, etc.), intense concentration on bodily sensation, and sensitivity to suggestion.
At least one submissive we know reports entering subspace through virtual SL sex, and not even ‘real’ SL sex at all. All she needs is to see her avatar bound to a bed, exposed and maybe blindfolded. Her feelings of helplessness and vulnerability are enough to begin the process, enhanced by her willingness to let go and submit.
But whether or not SL is hypnotic itself, there’s several sim and services that deal with erotic hypnosis of the virtual kind. Just Search on ‘Erotic Hypnosis’ and you’ll find some. But what you do with it is up to you.